Course Information & Format

The Mazamas Canyoneering class takes place over approximately six weeks. The class includes five lectures, held at the Mazamas Mountaineering Center, and two field sessions; locations TBD.

The class accepts 25 students. 

2024 Class Information

This is NOT a beginner class. Participants should be familiar with belaying, rope management, wilderness navigation, first aid, and also be a competent swimmer. Participants must be able to safely execute a basic rappel without supervision.

Required Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

  • Rappelling
  • Swimming
  • Belaying
  • Common knots used in technical systems
  • Rope management
  • Familiarity with anchors


  • Backcountry navigation
  • Basic first aid
  • Actively participating on a team
  • Familiarity with mechanical advantage systems

Canyoneering Details & History

Canyoneering (or “Canyoning”) is the sport of exploring canyons using a variety of techniques such as scrambling, climbing, rappelling, wading and swimming.  The term is most often used to describe technical descents requiring ropes, harnesses, and other specialized gear. Like climbs, canyons can vary widely in level of difficulty:  ranging from the easy hike-through variety to the extremely technical. Dry canyons are significantly easier in terms of rigging and preparation compared to those with flowing water.  The more water that’s present, the more difficult the canyon becomes. This class will focus primarily on local aquatic canyons in the Pacific Northwest.

Today, canyoneering is practiced all over the world, although it is most well known in Europe and the United States. In North America, its most commonly associated with the famous slot canyons of the Colorado Plateau, although it’s also practiced in the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, Arizona, British Columbia, Mexico, Hawaii, and here in the Cascade Range. With one of the greatest concentrations of waterfalls in the world, canyoneering is a natural fit for the Pacific Northwest.

While there are many similarities between canyoneering and climbing, the two are unique sports with unique techniques and hazards.  Experienced climbers may find their skills do not translate entirely to the canyon world; there’s a lot more to learn.

Canyoneering involves:

  • Anchor creativity
  • Single strand rappels
  • Rappelling down waterfalls
  • Hard starts & dealing with overhangs.
  • Rappelling in confined spaces
  • Rappelling with packs


  • Landing in deep pools (swimmer)
  • Swimming & dealing with current
  • Cold temperatures (many creeks stay cold all year round)
  • Bushwhacking to remote areas

Water adds a new variable to the rappel equation, and water protection will likely be required for both the canyoneer and their gear. Canyons may require bushwhacking into remote rugged areas and thus requires a high level of self-sufficiency.  Some canyons are extremely committing.  Once you pull your rope down on the first rappel, you may be committing yourself to the entire descent.

Course Details

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$515/members & $625/nonmembers

Tuition Assistance and payment plans are available. The application for assistance is built into the course application process. Tutition includes the purchase of Canyoning in the Pacific Northwest: A Technical Resource by Kevin Clark.

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Skills Taught
  • Planning an Outing
  • Canyon Hazards
  • Appropriate Gear & Water Protection
  • Leave No Trace & Canyon Ethics
  • Rappel Technique & Situational Awareness
  • Signals & Communication
  • Single Rope Technique
  • Why two-strand rappels are dangerous in canyons with significant water.
  • Why the ATC is not a good rappel device in canyons with significant water.
  • Rope Blocks & Setting the Length
  • Rigging for contingency
  • Retrievable Anchors
  • Introduction to Swiftwater
  • Canyon Rescue
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Time Commitment/Duration

Moderate–Canyoneering requires a moderate time commitment over a period of approximately 2 months. There are lectures once a week and two weekend field sessions.

Moderate–Canyoneering takes place over a period of  6 weeks and consists of two required weekend sessions.

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Application Process

The application period typically opens in mid-April and is open for two weeks.

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Participants should be familiar with the basic principles of anchor building, belaying, rappelling, rope management, wilderness navigation, first aid, and also be a competent swimmer. Participants must be able to build an anchor and safely execute a basic rappel without supervision. 

Canyoneering 2024 Details

Required Gear Details

Information will be provided about proper canyon gear and attire. At a minimum, students will require:

  • Full body wetsuit - (Thickness - 4/3 or 5/4 if you run cold. Farmer John/Jane style wetsuits and shorties are not permitted.)
  • Harness
  • Climbing rated helmet
  • Canyon-specific rappel device (Ex: Imlay Critr3)
  • Locking carabiners x 4 (screw-lock pear-abiners ideal)
  • Prusiks x 2 (waist and foot for ascending)
  • Quick Link x 2 (climbing rated - size 7 or 8mm)
  • 30 feet of 1" black webbing 
  • Backpack: 35-40 liter pack is ideal for day outings; be prepared to help carry the ropes
  • Dry bag
  • Quick-dry synthetic clothing
  • Rain shell jacket
  • Canyon shoes -OR- light hiking boots with decent tread (expect to be hiking in the water and big enough to fit with booties)
  • Neoprene booties (recommended 5mm)
  • Wool socks
  • Rappel gloves (cheap leather gardening gloves work well)
  • Signaling whistle attached to your helmet chin strap (ex: Fox 40)

During registration there will be an option to indicate if you are interested in purchasing a basic canyoneering gear package for $100.

  • 1 Imlay CRITR
  • 1 Carabiner for CRITR
  • 50 feet of 1" black webbing
  • 6 Galvanized Quick Links

Canyoneering Class Activities

This list shows the upcoming 10 activities related to the Canyoneering Course. Click the link to see all Canyoneering course activities on the website.

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